The Mzansi Youth Choir is a talented group of young singers that gained fame after their remarkable performance on “America’s Got Talent” season 18. The choir hails from South Africa and is led by two outstanding individuals, Sidumo Nyamezele, who serves as the Music Director, and Alfred Phakathi, who contributes as the Artistic Director and Choreographer. Their passion for music and dedication to their craft shines through in every performance they deliver.

What set Mzansi apart and made their AGT journey even more memorable is that they received the prestigious Audience Golden Buzzer, an incredible achievement that showcases the immense talent and captivating presence of this remarkable choir. Their success has not only brought joy to their nation but has also inspired aspiring young singers from all over the world.

Has Performed In Some Big Stages

The Mzansi Youth Choir has had the incredible opportunity to perform on some of the biggest stages, both in South Africa and around the world. One of their most notable performances was during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where they shared the stage with the renowned Colombian superstar Shakira and the local band Freshly Ground for the iconic performance of the official World Cup song, “Waka Waka,” at both the Kick-Off Concert and the World Cup Final.

Mzansi Youth Choir and Shakira are all raising both their hands clapping.
Mzansi Youth Choir with Shakira at the FIFA World Cup 2010 ceremony (Source: Mzansi Youth Choir Instagram @mzansiyouthchoir)

The Choir’s international presence was further solidified when they participated in the International Youth Choir Festival at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2017. In 2018, they opened a concert with the Nigerian superstar D’Banj and had the honor of closing the Global Citizen Concert alongside the world-famous Beyoncé. These remarkable achievements have not only showcased their immense talent and versatility but have also allowed them to spread the rich cultural heritage of South Africa to audiences across the globe.

The choir’s dedication and hard work have also taken them on tours to various countries, including Canada, Denmark, Egypt, England, Scotland, Turkey, and Russia, leaving a lasting impact on the hearts of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Their performances continue to inspire and unite people through the power of music and the celebration of South Africa’s vibrant artistic traditions.

Why Was Mzansi Youth Choir Formed?

Mzansi Youth Choir was formed in 2003 with a noble purpose in mind. Its founders had a clear vision of providing a platform for talented and underprivileged teenagers and young adults to showcase their musical abilities both locally and internationally. The choir’s establishment aimed to create a nurturing environment where these young individuals could develop their vocal skills and artistic talents to a professional level.

By doing so, Mzansi not only sought to empower its members but also to represent the rich and diverse musical heritage of South Africa to audiences around the world as mentioned on its official website. Over the years, the choir has lived up to its mission, captivating audiences with its powerful performances and leaving a lasting impact on the hearts of those who have had the privilege to witness their incredible talent.

Mzansi Youth Choir’s Memorable Performance In AGT

The Mzansi Youth Choir’s performance in “America’s Got Talent” Season 18 was truly unforgettable. During their audition in Episode 1801, they mesmerized the audience and judges with their soulful rendition of Nightbirde’s “It’s OK.” The emotional and powerful performance moved everyone in the theater, prompting the audience and judges (Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, and Heidi Klum) along with the host Terry Crews, to press the Golden Buzzer on their behalf.

Mzansi Youth Choir are all celebrating after the golden buzzer.
Mzansi Youth Choir at America’s Got Talent (Source: Mzansi Youth Choir Instagram @mzansiyouthchoir)

This incredible achievement sent the choir directly to the Semifinals, skipping several rounds of eliminations. As of the time of this writing, the rest of the show is yet to unfold, and we eagerly await to see more of their exceptional talent and passion for music. The Mzansi Youth Choir’s achievement of being the first choir to receive the Audience Golden Buzzer and the second choir from South Africa to reach the live shows after the Ndlovu Youth Choir demonstrates the outstanding musical talent this small African nation has to offer to the world.

About Nightbirdie (The Artist Whose Song Mzansi Youth Choir Performed In AGT)

Nightbirdie, whose real name was Jane Marczewski, was a talented singer who appeared on Season 16 of “America’s Got Talent.” She hailed from Zanesville, Ohio. During her audition, she performed her original song titled “It’s Okay,” ( the song that Mzansi Youth Choir performed) which deeply touched the hearts of both the audience and the judges.

Cowell was so impressed by Nightbirde’s performance that he pressed the Golden Buzzer, granting her direct entry to the Quarterfinals. However, as her health condition worsened due to her ongoing battle with cancer, she made the difficult decision to withdraw from the competition. Sadly, on February 19, 2022, at the age of 31, she passed away, having lost the four-year battle with cancer as mentioned in an article from NBC.

How The Choir Came Up With Its Name?

The process of choosing the name “Mzansi Youth Choir” was a thoughtful and meaningful one. The word “Mzansi” carries a deep significance as it means “south” in isiZulu, one of the official languages of their country. Additionally, it holds a special place in the hearts of the people as it is also a township slang word used to refer to their beloved nation, South Africa. The name beautifully reflects the choir’s identity and mission, encapsulating their roots and connection to their homeland.

All Mzansi Youth Choir members are posing by jumping at once.
Mzansi Youth Choir celebrating its 20th birthday (Source: Mzansi Youth Choir Instagram @mzansiyouthchoir)

As a cultural ambassador, the choir’s repertoire showcases the diverse musical heritage of South Africa through three pillars that represent the country’s cultural heartbeat. “Our Roots” feature traditional music, preserving the rich history and customs of the nation. “Our Spirit” embraces gospel and anthems, reflecting the spiritual essence and resilience of the people. Lastly, “Our Youth” brings in the current pop music, representing the vibrant and dynamic energy of the young generation. Through their name and music, the choir proudly carries the spirit of South Africa to audiences worldwide, spreading joy and celebration of their heritage.

Who Leads The Choir?

The Choir is fortunate to be led by two exceptional individuals who bring their talent and expertise to guide their journey. Sidumo Nyamezele serves as the Music Director, bringing his deep knowledge of music and artistic direction to ensure the choir’s performances are of the highest quality. Alongside him is Alfred Phakathi, who takes on the role of the Artistic Director and Choreographer. Alfred’s artistic vision and choreography skills add an extra layer of dynamism and visual appeal to the choir’s performances.

Sidumo Nyamezele, a talented conductor, completed his music and choral conducting studies at Nelson Mandela University. He achieved significant recognition by winning the Folklore Section at the World Choir Games 2019 with an impressive 95% score. He also led the World Youth Choir during their extensive international tours. Currently, he shares his passion for music as a member of the Music Department at St John’s School in Johannesburg.

Alfred Phakathi, known as the “father of choral choreography” in South Africa, was the lead dancer and managing director of African Footprint, a successful production with 3,000 shows in Europe since 2000. In 2010, he became the Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Mzansi Youth Choir, bringing his creative flair and expertise to elevate their performances. His contributions have helped the choir become a world-class ensemble, showcasing the cultural heritage of South Africa through music and dance.

Struggles Of The Choir

The Mzansi Youth Choir has faced its share of struggles, which highlights some of the challenges many talented artists and performers encounter in South Africa. The unfortunate reality is that often, recognition and appreciation for their talent seem to come more readily from other countries before their own.

As a non-profit organization, the choir relies on corporate gigs to sustain its operations and cover the expenses involved in managing a group of 36 choristers. From taking care of their travel needs to pay for a bus and drivers, the financial burden falls entirely on the choir. While this support has helped them keep going, it’s disheartening that the kids themselves cannot contribute financially, and everything comes out of the choir’s pocket.

Despite having been in the industry for a long time in South Africa, it took a stage like “America’s Got Talent” to gain recognition from their fellow countrymen. This reality serves as a reminder of the immense talent that exists within the nation and the need for greater support and recognition of local artists to thrive and continue to represent their cultural heritage on a global stage.


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